Could a student help the caretakers after school?

Interview with caretaker Walter Köble

How long have you been the caretaker at our school?

For 33 years.

Why did you choose this profession?

I was working in construction at the time and was told I had rheumatism, which later turned out to be wrong. After that I was in the Bundeswehr and then in a factory. It turned out that I don't like working in the factory because I'm a person who prefers to work more freely.

The other reason was that even back then (my cell phone rings, is ignored) I had to change company several times within a short period of time and, based on this experience, looked for a job until I retired.

In addition, I used to do youth work and I already enjoyed dealing with young people back then. Even today I still enjoy it and maybe you will notice that I am still relatively young for my 60 years.

When the students ask me, I say: So that I can do the cleaning week during working hours. 

What did you learn from home?

I am a trained gas / water plumber, so I learned a trade.

A place of work full of adolescents and opinionated teachers sounds exhausting. Why did you choose this place of work anyway?

(Cell phone rings, this time he answers) I have to honestly say that I have no problems with teachers. But some teachers have a problem with me because sometimes I'm too consistent for them. I've also had a teacher who only knew me when she wanted something from me. I also sometimes react the way one reacts to me. For years I was with the teachers by you. In the meantime I am with all the teachers via you, because it is more personal and we are all a team. Apart from Mr Gundelsweiler, I am also with the entire school management via you. I think that's better.

The situation used to be different. The staff was older and many colleagues were partly among themselves. Now there are a lot of young teachers around, all of whom are on terms with one another. I think it is very important to adapt and to keep up with developments at school.

Do you have a favorite place in our school that you particularly like to be?

In the weight room. I have to honestly say that I didn't do a lot of sports before. But by replacing my hips, I am forced to exercise to rebuild my muscles, and that is good for me too. Before, I didn't have the time because I was actually always working. I also worked with relatives in landscaping every Saturday and every day off. I take care of the gardens at the church. Now I've scaled back my work a bit, I'm more into sports and I feel good. For example, I enjoy going to the weight room at half past eight on Sunday mornings - that's where I can relax.

You were absent from school for some time due to illness. How are your health at the moment?

I don't have any problems with my hip, but with my right foot. I'll have to go back to the exam soon. The doctor said a while ago that it was a tendonitis that was caused by the incorrect loading. But I can work and I am free of pain. That is the most important thing for me. At the moment I am doing rehab after rehab, for which I have to go to Bad Urach twice a week. That's good for me.

What was your best experience at ASS in the last 33 years?

There were two things. The one thing was this: we once shot an Abi film that was actually brutal. In the film, I sit on the road sweeper in a leather jacket and sunglasses and drive out of the garage. A student was standing on top of the garage pulling the garage door open. So I drive out of the garage into the middle of a group of smoking students. The scene was prepared in such a way that the sweeper was started up and the students lay down in front of or under it, while still being smeared with theater blood. Then a round picture was made so that you can see everyone lying under the sweeper. The scene was underlaid with the melody of “Play me the song of death” and at the end the slogan was faded in “Smoking is dangerous to your health”.

The other nice thing was that outside the school building a student was throwing garbage on the floor. I came over and said to him: “You pick it up!” Then the student said: “They talk to me as you.” I answered quite loudly, so that half the school yard could hear: “You Seggel.” Some others laughed . Half a year later, the student came up to me at the abischer joke and apologized to me for this incident. He hadn't forgotten that.

Of course, the celebrations with the teachers or my private celebrations here in the auditorium were also very nice events, e.g. confirmations or my big birthday party for my 60th birthday.

As a caretaker, of course, you have to regularly remind the students about the rules in the school building. Have you remembered a particularly pleasant or surprising experience with students?

What I think is good is that many - not all, but many - students listen when you tell them something. For example, if you go to the students' classroom during the lunch break, only two people sit there and the lights are on and you then explain to them that a neon tube has 36 watts and that our school uses approx. 4000 kWh per week, i.e. as much as a four-person one Family in the year, then some pay more attention to electricity consumption. So you can do a lot through explanation and storytelling.

When I came back to school after my absence due to illness, many students spoke to me and asked, for example, "How are you? You are finally back. ”It is also very nice that the feedback came in such a way and that my presence is noticed by the students.

Numerous events take place at ASS, and you are usually involved in setting up and dismantling them. Is there an event that you find particularly attractive or useful?

So what surprises me personally is that at all the events in GASS, exhibitions and vernissages etc., apart from a broken picture frame, nothing has ever been damaged, so that everyone has a certain respect for art, whether you like it or not. I also have pictures from GASS at home, e.g. by Karlheinz Goll.

But I also think that the organ donation information and the blood donation campaign are important events. Also to make the students aware of the issues. Something like this enriches school life and is important. Not to be forgotten are events such as the schoolchildren's Christmas party, which promote solidarity.

Good caretakers are rare: why is that?

I think there are already good caretakers, also in other schools, at least the ones I know. Many caretakers are eternal brothers and sisters. At that time, for example, we had a caretaker in the secondary school, who was a wardrobe in stature and always stood by the door to see that everyone was cleaning their shoes. Why was that like that? Because the caretakers had to clean themselves.

What always excites me is that as a caretaker you have to be technically savvy, but the portrayal of caretakers in the media is always bad. The caretaker is always a fool on television. And in the meantime, such people are also applying for the positions. The image is bad. It is always shown that caretakers only run back and forth, but that a caretaker has to learn and achieve a lot is not taken into account.

At another school I heard from an applicant who had applied to be a caretaker and was asked what kind of idea he had of his future profession. To which he replied: Walk around a bit and clean the fuses. But those days are long gone when I see what maintenance has to be done in our building.

What do you think makes a good caretaker?

That he's human, tech-savvy, and interested. I used to go to trade fairs a lot, especially when I had my own cleaning crew (today only two cleaners are assigned directly to the caretaker, the rest is covered by a cleaning company). Today I also look a lot on the Internet, e.g. for the current regulations and their implementation. We get the regulations from the district, but the implementation and documentation is my responsibility. For example, I have created Excel tables for this purpose.

(The cell phone rings again, is rejected)

No matter what time you come to ASS, one thing is certain: You are there and you will be seen at work. What does such a typical working day look like for you?

In the morning I come at half past six to unlock school. Then I do a technique check. I usually work between nine and ten hours a day. But when something happens, you have to work longer. Once unlocked, I do repairs that need to be done before the students arrive. Then you go through the school building and do your maintenance and repairs; that can be different every day. So you have to assign yourself what to do every day. Most of the time, make a list and then work through it.

Such a workload is certainly not possible without having fun at work. What do you enjoy the most?

Actually everything. The only thing I don't like to do is clean clogged pipes or clean rooms where someone has vomited.

What are the biggest challenges for you as a caretaker?

The biggest challenge for me is that the school runs as smoothly as possible. That doesn't always work, but that is the goal. When it comes to winter road clearance, the aim is to clear all roads as possible before the first people arrive. Up to 300 chairs must be set up for events. I don't get everything from the warehouse at the same time, but you have to plan something like this well. Then there are a lot of repairs going on at the moment, especially the electrics and the blinds are bothering me.

Teachers and students generally have a lot of holidays. Does the caretaker also enjoy this privilege or what tasks are waiting for you during this teacher and student free time?

A caretaker usually has thirty days vacation, like any other worker, and he has to take that during the vacation. Outside of this vacation time, I make a targeted walk through the house during the vacation. I walk through every room, take a close look at the sockets, the blinds, the cupboards and furniture, check the boards, check the projection surfaces, the sanitary facilities and the washbasin. The reason for this is that you have peace and quiet during the holidays. 

What do you think are the greatest strengths of our school?

The relationship between teachers and students is definitely a very good one. The environment and social interaction are certainly very good. Compared to other schools, we are relatively small and manageable, which has a positive effect on the internal climate. There are also students with several thousand students. In addition, there is a certain order here.

Next year we will move to our new building. What will you miss most of our previous school building?

I can't really say whether I'll miss anything at all, maybe the beautiful view. On New Year's Eve, for example, we always go up to room 305 and watch the fireworks. My children have known this from an early age. We'll have to wait and see whether the new building also looks down into the city. 

Many do not even know that you are very socially committed and that you run fundraising campaigns for disadvantaged children at Christmas, for example. Where does this commitment come from?

It actually comes from an early age. I used to be with the Boy Scouts and did youth work. Regarding the donation campaign for Cleft (an organization that helps children with cleft lip and palate, editor's note), my involvement came about through a concert in Hardthausen, where I was confronted with this problem for the first time. The Cleft Children's Fund was checked by a friend of mine who supports the organization with music. This means that I know that 100% of my money will get where it should. My friend has already been to India and looked at the situation there. And when you see that you can simplify or even save a child's life by operating on their cleft palate for 250 euros, you have to honestly say that every euro you donate is of enormous importance here.

The idea of ​​giving fir branches for a donation came from the fact that I had so much sticks left when I cut my hedge. So I thought I could just give it a try for a donation. The year before last I was able to collect and transfer 280 euros and last year 180 euros.

Where does the social streak come from? Does it have something to do with your beliefs too?

For sure. I am a person who wants to help. I am very consistent with that. If someone comes and needs help, I'm happy to help. 

It is not long before you can retire (4 years). What are your plans for this time?

I haven't made any plans yet, I'm not there yet. First of all, I will soon go to the pension counseling service and get advice on how long I have to work at all. In rehab I was told that I had to work until I was 64. I'll let that come to me in peace. I don't know if I can work to the end. God decides that. I hope I can work until I am 64 and have a few good years after that.

We hope so as well.

Walter, thank you for your time and the pleasant conversation. 

DANIEL SCHWEIKER asked the questions.